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Archive for the ‘Social Philosophy’ Category

rlclrose22

Very occasionally, in the morning when the weather is not too hot, I step out onto my front porch and sit on a broad wooden bench, looking out into my front yard and that of my neighbor’s, enjoying the coolness of the air with nothing save birdsong to disturb the silence. I may bring a cup of tea with me, and perhaps one of my cats will come to sit near.

For the moment, I am at rest. I own the ground upon which I sit. I am fully provisioned and no enemies appear on my immediate horizon. I am well aware that this is an illusion, but choose to pretend in the moment, that all is well. Now in my fifties, my ambitions are modest. “A home, respect, freedom, and neighbors who want the same” (Lamar). I desire peace and quiet broken only by the occasional company of my extended family and close friends. I think that this is a desire commonly held by the overwhelming majority of mature adults existent across the face of the earth, irrespective of their culture, their history, or their present social and economic position within their particular communities. In the following pages it is my intention to describe the realization of this desire by a certain class of men among the petit-bourgeoisie whom I shall refer to as neo-patriarchs.
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“I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”[1]

rlclrose21These are the words of Howard Beale in “Network”. The American movie classic is about an aging network broadcaster who rebels against the corporate oligarchy and subsequently is murdered at their hands.  Rebellion and the rebels that foment them are a recurrent theme in story and song.  Spartacus[2], Robin of Loxley, William Wallace, Zorro, Patrick Henry[3], John Brown, and Michael Collins are but a few characters, real and imagined, who considered their own liberty and that of their fellow compatriots more important than the authority of a tyrannical state.
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Whosoever spends his days without a wife, has no joy nor blessing, or good in his life. Talmud – Yevamot 62B

The Orthodox Jewish view of Marriage

rlclrose21Any discussion of Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims must logically begin with the House of Israel. According to the Jewish history, God created the world, and its first parents, Adam and Eve, five thousand, seven hundred, and sixty seven years ago.

Approximately two thousand years later, Abraham, Patriarch of the Jews was born and nearly five hundred years after that, his ancestor Moses led captive Israel out of Egypt. (Aklah)  After the exodus from Egypt, the Orthodox Jews tell us that Moses received on Mount Sinai, personally from the God of Universe, the Ten Commandments, and subsequently the rest of the laws written down in the first five books of Moses. This compilation of books called the Pentateuch and others written by the rest of the prophets that called the Torah. It is from the Torah, from the accompanying explanations and commentary about it called the Talmud, and also from the three thousand years of tradition that bring us to the present, that the understanding and customs of Jewish marriage are derived. A study in 1970 determined that there were approximately six hundred thousand orthodox Jews living in the United States. (Elazar)
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Amongst many, though certainly not all, political theorists and economists there is a tendency to believe that in the absence of government, mutually beneficial voluntary economic interactions- and hence property rights- cannot exist, or, if they can, do so only infrequently (see, for instance, Murphy and Nagel (2002); Buchanan (1975); Glaeser et al. (2001); Rand (1967) pp. 329 – 337; Friedman (2002); Epstein (1985) chapter 1; Macpherson (1962)). This view has as its philosophical progenitor Thomas Hobbes, who famously concludes in his masterpiece, Leviathan, that in order to allow for mutually beneficial economic interactions- and thus property rights- a civil authority with the power to create and enforce laws is first necessary. What Hobbes (and by implication most modern political theorists and economists) fails to address adequately is that agents can establish property holdings and facilitate economic transactions in the absence of a government via self-enforcing contracts, particularly given his starting assumptions.

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If the title of this post sounds familiar, then you may have read or heard of Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. Essentially, Sowell categorizes two conflicting visions, which shape and determine how social visions develop including economic and moral visions. The two visions, which may often overlap are the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision. After a brief description of the two visions, two videos will be provided that I believe fairly represent each side.

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One of the things I greatly enjoyed doing as an undergrad at UNF was being part of the Ethics Bowl. The experience was interesting, engaging, and, despite our loss, enjoyable.

In the course of preparing cases for the competition, we made sure to present our cases to each other in an effort to try to work out any kinks. Fortunately, we had two members who had done this the year before, and another few who had some experience with the Bioethics Bowl, too. This greatly helped us in our prep, and we certainly wouldn’t have done as well as we did without it.

Of course, our ensuing conversations on these cases were not free from contention. There is one that continues to bug me today, about which I am going to dedicate this post to. For those who were on the UNF Ethics Bowl team last year, this contentious issue should be familiar to you. For those of you who were not, don’t worry — just keep on reading and it should all be clear to you.

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On Sunday, George Will raised the following question on ABC’s “This Week”: “Does Congress have the constitutional power to require obese people to sign up for Weight Watchers? If not, why not?” Let’s set the legal question aside for a moment and address the following ethical question: Is it morally permissible for the state to require those who are significantly overweight to enroll in the weight loss program of their choice?

Then let’s address two related follow-up questions:

  1. If you answered “yes” to the previous question, why does the state have that authority, and what else might it mandate, in accordance with that moral principle?
  2. If you answered “no” to the previous question, why does the state not have that authority, and what else is the state prohibited from mandating, in accordance with that moral principle?

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